Sarasota, Florida -- Sanborn Studios is firing back against Sarasota County with its own allegations in a dispute over the more than half-million dollars the business got to create jobs.
Scott Sobel, spokesperson for Sanborn Studios, said the county blacklisted the studios soon after it opened and cost taxpayers millions in revenue.
Does Sobel think Sanborn owes the county any money? "No," he says.
Sobel says the studio has lived up to a $650,000 incentive grant from the county. "Sanborn Studios has created a world-class production facility. Sanborn Studios provided jobs, provided economic opportunities according to what it promised in that contract."
The county disagrees and is suing for $350,000 in taxpayer money. Officials say Sanborn has not proven that it created the 117 high-paying jobs that was promised. Sobel says Sanborn's word is good enough, according to the contract. "(There is) nothing binding in the contract to require Sanborn Studios give details."
Sobel says Sanborn's owner, Ken Sanborn, met with county officials on Aug. 9, 2013, and provided the information they requested, but he would not hand over private employee information. "Sanborn Studios doesn't trust the county. It's that plain and simple," Sobel says.
The breakdown in trust happened in July 2013, Sobel says. He said that's when one of the studio clients, Sweet Tomato Films out of Bradenton, severed its relationship with Sanborn. Sobel says the film company's producer, Dori Sperko, told Sanborn's owner in a letter that a county official told her their association with "Sanborn Studios was creating prejudice against our production company."
Sobel claims it's the county that has blacklisted Sanborn since soon after it opened in 2010. "The county almost immediately started bad mouthing the studio," says Sobel.
Sobel says commissioners made comments in local newspapers in 2011 that caused the studio to lose $30 million in business and $2 million of owner Ken Sanborn's own money.
Some of the local articles reported that a couple of commissioners were leery about giving Sanborn another $500,000 after the studio was open five months.
"Sanborn Studios has been devastated by the lack of support county commissioners given to the studio the lack of publicity and the terrible things said to clients and perspective clients," Sobel said.
County commissioners would not comment on the case after their meeting Wednesday.
"The county went from being Sanborn Studios' best friend to Sanborn Studios' worst enemy," Sobel said. "The real losers are the taxpayers in Sarasota County."